I have a lot of special people that I work with in the gym everyday. For some reason I am very blessed like that. There have been some real knuckleheads that have snuck in, but they never last very long. The people that stick around are usually alright.
One day well over a year ago I got a funny email. The lady, who I did not know, sent me an email inquiring about my services. She opened with something that caught me off guard. She stated immediately in her email that she was a vegan and previous trainers she had worked with told her it was impossible for her to get strong because of it. Interesting.
Now I must admit that I am about the farthest thing from a vegan. In fact I am pretty sure that I could live entirely on different cuts of steak. Honestly, as I am typing this I am thinking about the different cuts of steak and it is making me hungry.
I was a little worried. Seriously, strength training requires significant protein for recovery. I am a meat eating, ravenous carnivore and I have trouble eating enough protein when I am training hard. How in the heck was this lady going to eat enough protein to train? Oh and she told me she was in her 60's...
She also mentioned she was told a woman of her age shouldn't lift so heavy.
I didn't think too much about this statement because I know a thing or two about building strength. I figured we should just get started and see what we could do.
When I met her I knew I was right. I quickly found out that I was dealing with a woman cut from a different thread. The one they keep in the back behind the counter. They broke the mold with her.
She was perfect for the program. No judgements from her. She has her act together. Her and her husband and have been together for almost 40 years and they moved to Grand Ledge from South Africa when political issues started getting crazy. They built a wonderful chiropratic office together and have spent their careers helping keeping people in their community healthy. They also own a studio where her husband teaches Tai-Chi and she teaches Yoga. She is really a special person with a lot of wisdom, experience, and joy to share.
Charmaine was coachable right from the get go. I knew my stuff and she recognized that. Amazingly enough, I didn't fall out of bed one day and wind up in a small private gym with 6 power racks, a bunch a barbells, and a lot plates. Believe it or not, I have actually worked incredibly hard to get to where I am. She seemed to understand all that.
I must admit I was a little intimidated working with Charmaine at first. She is quite a woman and her background had me questioning my methods at times. I had to be really sure I knew what I thought I knew. Working with her has taught me a lot. Luckily, she has remained very patient with me and believes in what we are doing.
Getting her to squat was hard at first. Every single person that comes into my gym squats eventually. It is the first thing we do. Charmaine was incredibly flexible, she has been teaching yoga for 30 years, but I couldn't get her to squat a bar below parallel for the life of me. She could do a unweighted squat perfectly, but I could not get her to do a correct low-bar squat in accordance with the Starting Strength model of basic barbell training. It took a little time to build the strength necessary to get the job done.
She did everything else well though. I honestly do not remember what she started with on each of the other lifts, but they were all pretty good. She loved the deadlift right from the get go. The bench and the press went well also, but the squat took a few months.
The problem we were having was depth. She just could not get the depth. Lower, deeper, further, down, below, keep going, LOWER, DEEPER, GET LOWER, GET DEEPER, GO CLOSER TO THE GROUND CHARMAINE. I mean I seriously cannot remember all of the cues I was using and how many tricks I tried to get the woman to squat below parallel.
Eventually it happened. Again, I have no idea what caused it to happen, but it happened. We got rolling and I continued to train her three days a week. We followed a modified version of a linear progression. It was an experimental version based on my history of training older adults and my estimations of her ability to recover. It has worked pretty well. She has gotten a lot stronger.
Charmaine has always been consistent. She is a dream client in a lot of ways. She takes this stuff very serious and never cancels. If she must reschedule a training session it is always well in advance. A lot of the times her trips to Europe to give lectures coincide nicely with my Starting Strength adventures and family vacations. Things have worked well for our training and I am fairly sure she would back me up on this.
I just wanted to highlight Charmaine to give everyone a picture of what Black Iron Training is about and the kind of people we work with. Charmaine is exceptional and a lot fun to work with. Her dedication is greatly appreciated. The kind of training we do is an important thing and it is about a whole lot more than most people think.
I will save the story about how we got Charmaine ready to win the Michigan Senior Olympics in Powerlifting this past summer for a future post. It is a good story, but I needed to start with an intro first.
If you want to learn more about what we do at Black Iron or about the Starting Strength model come talk to me at our free demo this Saturday morning at 10am.